Cubital Tunnel Release
(Ulnar Nerve Surgery)

Cubital tunnel release, also referred to as ulnar nerve entrapmentsurgery, is a procedure performed under either general or regional anesthesia. Its purpose is to relieve compression of the ulnar nerve, which runs along the inner part of the elbow and extends down to the hand. The primary objective of cubital tunnel release is to address cubital tunnel syndrome.

What Is a Cubital Tunnel Release?

Cubital tunnel release refers to a surgical intervention designed to alleviate the discomfort caused by the entrapment of the ulnar nerve within the cubital tunnel, located in the elbow. This particular condition, known as cubital tunnel syndrome, is characterized by moderate to severe pain and numbness in the elbow region, primarily affecting the ring and little fingers.

The main objective of this surgical procedure is to alleviate pressure on the ulnar nerve by cutting and separating a constricting ligament. When other treatment options fail to provide relief, cubital tunnel release becomes an optimal choice for patients. This procedure is similar to carpal tunnel release surgery in terms of its approach. With a high success rate, this procedure offers a promising solution for individuals experiencing persistent ulnar nerve issues.

Getting relief for cubital tunnel syndrome starts with a visit to Resurgens Orthopaedics. Schedule an appointment now at one of our many Metro Atlanta locations!

Why Is a Cubital Tunnel Release Performed?

When there is entrapment or compression of the ulnar nerve, which runs behind a bony protrusion called the medial epicondyle of the elbow joint, various symptoms manifest themselves including:
  • Persistent tingling and numbness in both the fourth and fifth fingers
  • Reduced grip strength
  • Weakness in muscles and difficulty coordinating finger movements
  • Elbow pain accompanied by heightened sensitivity to cold
These symptoms necessitate surgery to provide relief and enhance one's quality of life.

How To Prepare for a Cubital Tunnel Release

Proper preparation for a Cubital Tunnel Release surgery is essential in ensuring a smooth procedure and successful recovery. To get ready, here are some important steps to take:

Comprehensive Pre-Surgery Medical Examination
It is crucial to undergo a thorough examination conducted by your healthcare provider before the surgery. This will help identify any existing medical conditions that may impact the procedure.

Blood Tests and Diagnostic Imaging
Routine blood tests should be done, along with potential X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans to assess the condition of the ulnar nerve and surrounding structures.

Medication Review and Allergies Discussion
Inform your doctor about all medications you are currently taking including vitamins and supplements, as well as any allergies you have towards medications, anesthesia, or latex.

Adjusting Medications
Follow your healthcare provider's advice regarding stopping blood thinners, aspirin, or anti-inflammatory medications at least one to two weeks prior to the surgery.

Dietary Restrictions
Refrain from eating or drinking anything after midnight on the night preceding your surgery. It is also important to avoid alcohol and tobacco for at least 24 hours before the operation.

Pre-Surgery Hygiene Practices
Take a shower or bath either on the night before or on the morning of your scheduled surgery day. Additionally make sure to not wear contact lenses before your procedure; it's best to wear glasses instead. Also avoid wearing tight clothing, as they may be difficult to put back on after your procedure.

Personal Belongings and Transportation It is important to refrain from bringing any valuable items with you to the hospital, especially jewelry on the arm that will undergo surgery. To ensure comfort during your journey back home, it is recommended to bring a pillow for arm support in the car. Additionally, make arrangements for someone to drive you to and from the hospital.

Pre-Operative Documentation
Remember to bring a copy of your pre-operative examination form with you on the day of surgery. Furthermore, be prepared to provide written consent after receiving a comprehensive explanation of the surgical procedure.

Taking adequate time for preparation can positively impact both your surgical experience and recovery process.

What Happens During A Cubital Tunnel Release?

During a cubital tunnel release procedure, the ulnar nerve, which is compressed or irritated at the elbow, is given additional space to alleviate symptoms associated with cubital tunnel syndrome. The following steps outline the process:

To ensure a pain-free experience during the surgery, you will receive either general or local anesthesia.

A small cut, typically measuring 3-4 inches in length, is made on the inner side of your elbow to access the ulnar nerve.

Tissue Release
Tissue is carefully released in order to open up the cubital tunnel and create more room for the nerve. This technique is referred to as decompression. In certain cases, it may be necessary for the nerve to be repositioned outside of its original location within the tunnel. This repositioning process is known as transposition.

Once all necessary adjustments have been made, sutures are used to close up and secure the incision. Your arm will then be bandaged and you may also be provided with a sling for support during your recovery period.

The entire procedure typically takes less than an hour and can usually be performed on an outpatient basis - meaning there's no need for an overnight stay at a medical facility. Your healthcare provider will give you detailed instructions regarding post-operative care measures that should help facilitate your recovery process.

Are There Risks Associated With Cubital Tunnel Release?

While most patients do not encounter any complications after a cubital tunnel procedure, there are potential risks associated with it. These risks include:

  • Infection
  • Nerve damage that may result in permanent numbness around the elbow or forearm
  • Elbow instability
  • Elbow flexion contracture
  • Pain at the scar site
  • Symptoms that persist even after surgery has been performed
  • Allergic reactions to medications administered during the procedure
  • Bleeding
  • Injury to either the median nerve or its branches leading to weakness and numbness around the hand
  • Other nearby nerves or blood vessels (arteries or veins) being injured
  • Scar tenderness
It should be emphasized that these risks are relatively infrequent and most patients attain a successful outcome from this procedure. Nonetheless, it is crucial to speak with your Resurgens physician regarding any concerns you may have or possible complications before proceeding with surgery.

Post Ulnar Nerve Entrapment Treatment & Recovery

Following your surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome, you'll likely wear a sling during the initial days following your procedure. You may also experience some discomfort in your elbow and hand. It is essential to follow the post-operative instructions provided by your healthcare provider, which will include resting your arm, avoiding strenuous activities, and participating in recommended physical therapy sessions. In general, patients can expect to resume normal activities within one week and enjoy noticeable relief from symptoms.

For personalized care and the best possible recovery outcome, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with Resurgens Orthopaedics without delay.

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